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What is an Implicit Association Test (IAT)?
When you hear a word such as “sugar”, your mind connects this more readily with the word “cake” than with the word “bike”. This is called an association. Associations or linkages can vary in strength. Pictures and objects can also create associations: for example some people may see flowers as ‘pretty’, and insects as ‘ugly’.
However we are not always aware that we are making these associations. We may make them subconsciously. This is the focus of the ‘Implicit Association Test’. It is designed to look at whether we are making subconscious associations when we consider the links between gender and science courses.
What do we want to test in the Implicit Association Test (IAT) ‘Gender and Courses’?
In this test we aim to measure the strengths of the associations that students make between ‘ boys and sciences‘ and ’girls and sciences‘. We are testing the hypothesis that students associate ‘boys and sciences’ more readily than ‘girls and sciences’.
Why do we want to test these associations?
If we find that girls associate sciences more strongly with boys than girls, this unconscious link may have an influence on their further studies. The same may be said for the subconscious associations made by boys. If boys link sciences more strongly with boys than girls, they may act differently towards girls in science classes.
The Implicit Association Test is composed of three parts.
The first part contains a number of questions focusing on the participant’s ‘explicit opinions’.
The second part of the test asks the participant to indicate what he/she perceives as the reasons for success and failure in science courses.
The third part of the test measures the strength of the association that the participant makes between boys/girls and science courses. It relies on the assumption that people are able to categorise strongly associated concepts more readily (and therefore more quickly) than concepts that are weakly associated (Greenwald et al., 1998)
Participants are presented with picture stimuli (boy versus girl) that have to be paired with an attribute category (science versus non-science). This is done by pressing the designated response key, the ‘E’ for left and the ‘I’ for right, as quickly as possible.
The IAT consists of 7 trials.
Feedback reports to participants:
When the test has been completed twice, the participant will receive a personal report with her/his results containing:
• An overview of their explicit opinions
• A graph outlining their implicit associations
• A chart outlining the link between their explicit opinions and implicit associations.
An additional report focusing on the perceived causes for failure and success can be provided on request.
Feedback report to the careers counsellor
The school careers counsellor/teacher can request a group report containing a graph showing the combined participants’ perceptions of the causes for success and failure within science courses. The perceived causes are described according to ‘attribution theory’:
1) The cause being located:
i) inside the person ((lack of) ability or (lack of) effort)
ii) outside the person (good/bad luck or the complexity of the assignment)
2) The cause being either controllable or not controllable by the person
3) The cause being stable over time or contemporary
The analysis will demonstrate the perceived causes for success or failure in science programmes within the group, and may help a teacher to interpret (and if necessary) adapt his/her own behaviour towards science students in the future.
A more detailed briefing for careers counsellors and teachers can be made available.
Ruud Gal & Jacobien Kamp